Aaron Berscheid is a district wildlife officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Aaron covers the ďwildĒ side of Northeast El Paso County, including Black Forest, Falcon, Peyton and Calhan. He also covers some of Elbert County, north of U.S. Highway 24 and south of State Highway 86, including the towns of Elbert, Kiowa, Ramah, Simla, Matheson and a small portion of the Limon area.
Last month, I chatted with you about how Colorado Parks and Wildlife pays for wildlife conservation, expensive biological research and fieldwork needed to rescue and reintroduce threatened and endangered species.
I explained how CPW is not a taxpayer-funded agency and gets just a tiny fraction of its $260 million in revenue from taxpayers. The bulk of the agencyís revenue comes from hunting and fishing license sales, federal excise taxes on the sales of hunting rifles, ammunition, donations and grants.
Thatís why we encourage lovers of wildlife to hug a hunter or angler because many of the wild animals we all enjoy watching today may not even exist without their financial support.
But what if you donít hunt or fish? Iím sure many of you would like to help and be hugged for conserving our wildlife and its critical habitat designated as State Wildlife Areas.†
Well, today Iím going to tell you how you can help conserve and enjoy Coloradoís fine creatures. Starting May 1, you can buy a Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass!
First, a bit of background information is needed about those State Wildlife Areas, which we call SWAs. CPW owns and manages about 350 SWAs throughout the state ó each purchased and maintained with sportspersonsí dollars.†
Historically, SWAs were located in isolated, rural areas; and originally intended solely for hunting and fishing activities and wildlife habitat conservation.
But everyone knows how Coloradoís population has grown and spread out. Today, many SWAs are close enough to populated areas that people who do not hunt or fish began using them to view wildlife and for other recreational activities, like hiking.
Unfortunately, many of these hikers and wildlife watchers began conflicting with hunters and anglers on these SWAs. And all the new traffic generated trash and maintenance issues paid for, you guessed it, by revenue from hunting and fishing licenses.
So the obvious question arose: Is it fair to allow hikers and wildlife watchers to get a free ride and force hunters and anglers to pay for their activities, and even crowd them off SWAs, when their license revenues are used to buy and maintain the land?†
CPW canít bar anyone from our SWAs, as they are for public access. So, as a matter of fairness and to spread the burden of ongoing maintenance and fund future purchases, the CPW Commission decided everyone using SWAs should share the financial burden of maintaining them.
This is not a new idea. CPW has made multiple attempts to spread the financial burden. Habitat Stamps were required for a while, but because of some technical difficulties and state regulations (red tape), that requirement fell by the wayside.
Then CPW created a regulation requiring anyone over 18 years old who accessed a SWA to possess a current and valid hunting or fishing license. But people opposed to hunting objected to buying a license. So CPW staff spent the past year coming up with a way everyone using SWAs has the opportunity to help support them.
Now itís here. Brand new and fresh out of the box is the State Wildlife Area pass.
It is now possible for those who do not hunt or fish, yet want to access SWAs, to help pay for the wildlife habitat and properties.†
The new annual pass is $36.08 for adults, plus a $1.50 Wildlife Education Fund surcharge and a fee of $10.40 for a Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp. Thatís equivalent to the cost of the cheapest fishing license with a habitat stamp. Itís about half the cost of an $80 state parks pass. And with over 350 SWAs in Colorado, this new pass is a bargain.
As always, please pay attention to the regulations pertaining to all properties and those that pertain to each individual property, as some have specific regulations.†
And please help us preserve and maintain them.†
Please pick up after yourselves and others, respecting all who are lawfully enjoying the property with you. And keep in mind, the main purpose of these properties is to provide hunting and fishing access, so be mindful of the time of year because hunters may be using the property to hunt.†
If you do encounter a hunter, understand that it is illegal to interfere with lawful hunting activities.
And, who knows? Maybe after you buy your new State Wildlife Area pass, someone will hug you, too!
Here are a few SWA properties near the Black Forest and Falcon areas that people can enjoy:
- Ramah SWA: Ramah State Wildlife Area is located just east of Calhan on U.S. Highway 24 before you get to the town of Ramah. It is probably the closest SWA to the area. Ramah SWA can be home to many different wildlife species to enjoy watching, including deer, pronghorn, turkeys (every once in a while); and, during the right conditions, waterfowl. One out of 10 years or so, rain falls in the right spot and fills the reservoir, but not as often as it used to. More details in this link:
- Dome Rock SWA: Dome Rock State Wildlife Area is located in Teller County if you wanted to take a trip past Divide. Turkey, elk, deer, and many other wildlife can be found here. More information on Dome Rock can be found at this link https://cpw.state.co.us/swa/Dome%20Rock%20SWA%20 (formerly%20Mueller)
- Pueblo Reservoir SWA: Pueblo Reservoir State Wildlife Area is located on the western side of the Pueblo Reservoir State Park. Deer, waterfowl and other wildlife can be found here, as well as access to the western end of the reservoir. More information at https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Maps/PuebloReservoirSWA_geo.pdf
You can find a full list of properties on our website at the CPW website along with maps and information about specific properties.†
For pricing and more information on the State Wildlife Area Pass, here are some helpful links:
In the coming months, Iíll share more of those stories as I write about wildlife issues in our community: Got a question, problem or column idea, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 719-227-5231.†
I might even answer your question in a future installment of ďWildlife Matters.Ē